Canada to Participate in International Space Apps Challenge

Teams in Toronto and Winnipeg will participate in the 2nd International Space Apps Challenge April 20-21.

Promoted as “a technology development event during which citizens from around the world work together to solve challenges relevant to improving life on Earth and life in space”, the Space Apps Challenge is a 48 hour international mass collaboration with a goal of producing relevant open-source solutions.
The event, which is part of the global Open Government Partnership, encourages collaboration between government agencies and civil society organizations around the world to promote technology development and innovation.
The 2012 challenge was led by NASA with 8 other government agencies and 90 additional organizations. The event took place in 25 cities, dispersed over 17 countries on all seven continents as well as online. The challenge brought together 2,083 registered participants (ages 16-70) together to address 71 challenges that were grouped into four broad categories including open source software, open hardware, citizen science platforms, and data visualization. More than 100 unique solutions were developed in less than 48 hours during the event – many that had direct tangible benefits to existing programs at NASA. All solutions were developed in a completely open source environment, and each have their own unique potential to go even further to address world and space technology challenges.
The 2013 challenge will take place of ther April 20-21 weekend in over 50 cities around the world. The event is being promoted by NASA’s Open Innovation Program team.
“What sets apart the International Space Apps Challenge from other events is that this is a collaborative opportunity to engage people from all over the world to participate in space exploration and develop state-of-the-art technology to improve life on Earth and in space,” said Nick Skytland, program manager of NASA’s Open Innovation Program.
Teams can pick from a list of challenges. According to the International Space App website, “the challenges are focused on improving life on Earth and life in space in the areas of open source software, open hardware, data visualization and citizen science. ”
Challenges include virtual visits to the Moon, Mars and other planets, using data to create various visual experiences and solving terrestrial problems such as renewable energy sources and climate change.
The Toronto Space Apps Challenge will be held at the Royal Ontario Museum. James Costa is one of the organizers of the event. “It’s really exciting to be helping NASA bring Space Apps to Toronto. With the help of our awesome sponsors and the fantastic challenges developed by NASA, we’re excited to see what our participants come up with. We’re going to have 150 participants that range from designers, to web and mobile developers, to makers and strategists working together with mentors and each other to really show the world that Toronto is the place to be if you want to change the world.”
There will be a local get together/planning meeting on April 12 – just before a Yuri’s Night Party in downtown Toronto for participants to network and collaborate and start forming teams. The schedule for the 48 hour event and the 24 challenges the organizers would like the teams to focus on are posted on the Space Apps Toronto website.
Jonathan Moneta ia another organizer and was involved in the organization of a party last August to celebrate the landing of Curiosity on Mars. “The NASA Space Apps Challenge is similar to the Mars Curiosity Rover Landing Party in theme, but with a very different objective. More than just producing a fun event for 200 space and technology fans, the Space Apps Challenge is specifically targeting engineers, developers, designers, and makers, with the goal of creating an array of useful prototypes, tools and games that have real value for NASA and the public. We’ve also got some of the best web, mobile, and development firms in the city working on this, such as The Phuse and BNOTIONS. This isn’t just a party.”
After the two day “hackathon”, the apps will be judged and prizes will be handed out in the ‘best of’ categories. Two apps will be chosen to send to NASA as Toronto’s contribution.
The Winnipeg Space Apps Challenge will take place at the University of Manitoba. The organizer is Dario Schor – he is a member of the UMSATS.
“The University of Manitoba Space Applications and Technology Society (UMSATS) consists of 150 undergraduate and graduate students from six faculties dedicated to fostering space exploration in Manitoba. Our team participates in the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge and is very active in outreach activities that promote space to the community at large. These activities have included presentations, seminars, workshops, participation in space camps and other activities that reached more than 5,000 people since Oct 2010.”
“We learned about the NASA Space Apps Challenge through social media last year and felt that it would be a great event to host in Winnipeg. We expect there will be around 30-40 participants throughout the weekend and have received lots of interest in the hardware challenges and cubesat mission concepts. There have been many challenges discussed and there is lots of interest around the “Ardusat” and the “Hitch a ride to Mars” challenges. It is going to be an exciting weekend at the University of Manitoba and we expect lots of creative and innovative solutions from the participants.”
Jonathan Moneta sees the Space App Challenge as an excellent opportunity to inspire young people.
“The Space Apps Challenge is an opportunity for younger developers to work hand in hand with seasoned aerospace engineers, space and planetary science experts. That’s a great benefit of hackathons of this nature — we’re creating a multidisciplinary hot-pot, a massive opportunity for collaboration, and fertile ground for innovation.”

About Randy Attwood

Amateur astronomer, astrophotographer, space exploration historian. Executive Director, The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada / Publisher - SkyNews magazine.

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